Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is not a super hero. He’s just a man, blessed if you will, with the mildest form of football acumen and a particularly unique variant of humility who happens to helm a winning football club, much to the surprise of his allies and sheer bafflement of his foes. However, to knowledgeable comic book fans this constitutes a pattern, one that places this most unlikely of stars not in the constellation of Superman or Thor, but of a hero although as unique as he is. Her name? Squirrel Girl.
From her power set you might not think of her as much of a threat. As a mutant like Marvel Comic's X-Men, she has the ability to communicate with squirrels, the Spider-Man-like proportional agility and strength of such creatures, a set of retractable knuckle spikes and a prehensile tail. She might be goofy looking, but the truth is that you underestimate her at your peril.
Squirrel Girl, real name Doreen Green, was created in 1992 by writer Will Murray and Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko. In her first appearance, the unlikely young heroine comes to the aid of Iron Man, and with the help of her furry friends, defeats Doctor Doom. So began a career where the rookie superhero, despite constantly seeming out of her depth, manages to beat all of Marvel Comics most powerful villains, including the giant dragon Fin Fang Foom, the cosmic tyrant Thanos, the evil sorcerer The Mandarin and has even had cause to fight (and defeat) the legendary hero Wolverine. Yet what is remarkable is that despite her fearsome reputation, she remains the picture of humility, working as a nanny to the daughter of Avengers Luke and Jessica Cage rather than going off to seek glory in battle for herself.
Coming into the NFL with a legacy of victory himself, Tim Tebow quarterbacked for two National Championship winning teams at University of Florida, won the 2007 Heisman Trophy for the most outstanding player in collegiate football and gathered a massive fan base, but despite that, opinions were mixed if his success could transfer to the faster, tougher pro game. Though he was drafted in the first round by Denver, he played only sparsely before starting the last three games of the season when the team was already out of contention. In his second season his early work drew criticism from football experts nationwide, including ESPN's Rick Reilly who after seeing a performance in a preseason scrimmage stated that Tebow "looked like a man being chased by bees." However, when the Broncos' season started to go south, the team caved to massive fan pressure and named Tim Tebow the starting quarterback.
Since then, Tebow put together a streak of six wins this season, almost all of them with fourth quarter comebacks after a poor performance in the preceding three, but came back down to Earth, ending the season with a three game losing streak before backing into the playoffs. Once there, the Broncos were expected to be an easy win for the Steelers, despite the fact they were playing in Denver. One eighty-yard TD pass in overtime later, Tebow and the Broncos were off to the Divisional Playoff round.
Just like Squirrel Girl, Tim Tebow isn't out there on his own. Where she has a legion of furry friends at her command that are more often than not a key to her victories, Tebow has the surging Broncos defense, a potent running game, a laser-accurate kicker with a cannon for a leg and a coaching squad that has come up with a strategy that plays into their quarterback’s strengths by not demanding anything from him that he's not capable of. But just like Squirrel Girl’s animal allies, the rest of the Broncos, at least outwardly, have embraced their leader, whose selflessness and tendency to self-abasement are endearing to their friends and frustrating to their foes.
One of the major differences between the two unlikely champions is that while Squirrel Girl's improbable wins frequently take place 'off panel' in the comics, Tebow's wins come live and in real time to alternately shock and crush the fans of his opponents. Also, while Squirrel Girl's fanbase is limited to those long time comic book fans that are 'in on the joke,' Tebow's popularity has a level of national notoriety usually saved for those of a more infamous reputation. His fans have made his jersey the bestselling in the league, while even those who are less than enamored with him can't keep his name off their lips.Will Squirrel Girl become the greatest Avenger? Will Tebow start a new Denver Dynasty? We guess that's up to folks like Norman Osborn and Tom Brady.